cover image Casey Jones's Fireman: The Story of Sim Webb

Casey Jones's Fireman: The Story of Sim Webb

Nancy Farmer. Phyllis Fogelman Books, $16.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1929-3

It's all aboard for adventure as Newbery Honor author Farmer (The Eye, the Ear and the Arm) produces an exciting blend of history and imagination. Here, readers see the legendary train engineer Casey Jones through the eyes of his fireman, Sim Webb. As fireman, Webb maintains the coal-burning furnace that provides Jones's engine with its steam power. One night Jones meets a shady character who offers him a golden steam whistle for his engine. Said to be made from the angel Gabriel's trumpet, the whistle will require a dangerous amount of steam to blow. When a proud Jones tries out the new whistle (against Webb's advice), he--and his engine--meet with disaster. Farmer's fully realized portrait of a little-known figure from African-American history will fascinate readers. Narrated by Webb, the account resonates with you-are-there immediacy and emotion. Bernardin (Dancing with the Wind) depicts Webb and Jones as jovial, hardworking young men, but the real stars of these dark-hued dramatic oil paintings are the trains, seen on nearly every page. Showing Jones's Cannonball racing through the inky night, Bernardin seems also to capture the sound of the whistle and the feel of the rushing wind. Children will want to proceed full steam ahead to the dramatic finale. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)